I can be pretty hard on senior leadership. Having been in such a position for over 25 years, I know the bad side of senior leadership. I’ve witnessed it and, in full candor, I’ve been it.
My goal is always to improve senior leadership for all of us, which has been a chief goal of this blog. When I’m coaching other leaders, predominately I’m coaching senior leadership.
But, what about those who are supporting senior leadership?
Any good senior leader knows he or she is nothing without the people on their team. Without people to lead there is no need for leadership. And, a huge part of good leadership is having confidence in the people on is trying to lead.
So, a good leadership question might be: What causes senior leadership to lose confidence in people they are trying to lead?
How do you lose favor with senior leadership?
Here are 7 common ways I have observed in my own leadership:
Give half-hearted devotion to the vision.
Speaking for someone in senior leadership, who feels the weight of completing the vision before us, there’s little time to waste on people who don’t share the same vision. It’s one thing not to understand it, to have questions about it, or need development. Everyone has bad days and bad seasons, but, it’s a completely different story when the person has lost passion – or never had passion – for the vision. Especially when they demonstrate it by their work.
Sometimes the best thing for the rest of the team – and the person – is for them to find a vision they can support. These are tough decisions leaders often have to encourage.
Work for a competing vision.
This one is slightly different. In the previous one, the person has lost heart. This person has plenty of heart – but, for a completely different vision. Any team will crumble under competing visions. When a team member starts competing, it’s hard to maintain the support of senior leadership.
Eventually, competing visions cause others on the team to choose sides. The division results in ineffectiveness and poor morale. Again, hard decisions may have to be made.
Always bringing surprises.
As a senior leader, there’s a surprise everyday. Something is always coming we didn’t see coming. It’s part of the job – and honestly – it keeps most leader-types energized, even when the surprise presents a new challenge. But, because they are so frequent, a healthy team helps limit them.
If someone on the team, for example, knows there is a problem brewing, and doesn’t share it with senior leadership in a timely manner, there is the potential for a bigger, more complicated challenge. It might have been avoided with prior information.
Whether in the person’s area of work or in their personal life, if there are frequent “surprises” the senior leader begins to lose confidence in the team member. The key here is good team members practice good communication. It’s paramount to a healthy team. It’s much easier to address an issue with advance knowledge. We can get through almost anything if we handle it together.
Never learning from mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes. Good leaders actually expect them as a part of the development process. It’s easy to lose the confidence of senior leadership, however, when mistakes made never produce improvement – or when there is an attitude of indifference towards them.
Failing to follow through.
Work has to be done. And, every great idea is just an idea until someone follows through with a plan of accomplishment. This is what separates great teams from mediocre teams. When team members never complete the tasks assigned, they lose the confidence of senior leadership.
(This one deserves a sidebar. If there are more tasks assigned than possible to complete, there could be a problem on the senior leaders side. This is another post, but sometimes you have to “lead up” to help senior leadership understand this, but make sure the problem is too many tasks and not a need to develop as a task master. Make sure you’re doing all you can to get better at time-management, for example.)
Causing your loyalty or respect to be questioned.
This one will raise eyebrows, but it’s true. Obviously, this requires a vision worth following, but loyalty towards senior leadership is necessary to complete the vision. I posted recently on some of my most repeated leadership nuggets. One of them is “Don’t trip over your own humility”. Basically, I described it as don’t refuse to do the right thing because it seems self-serving. And, this is certainly the case when you expect loyalty of followers. But, mutual loyalty and respect – from leaders and team members – is necessary to carry a team forward in a healthy way.
Say one thing. Do another.
There’s no place where letting our “yes be yes and our no be no” is more important than on a healthy team. And, every good leader knows this. People-pleasers don’t earn respect on a team once they are exposed. And, yes, this does start with senior leadership, but it must be carried through at every level of the team.
These are meant to be helpful. I work with a lot of ministry leaders who report to a senior pastor. I have never met one who didn’t want the support of the senior pastor, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with everything the pastor did. They want to be supported. When you’ve supposedly bought into the senior leadership, you want to be a team player, this is simply a gut honest look at some common ways to lose their support.
And, the same goes for senior leadership. We want people we can support, believe in, and want to work with on our team. And, every senior leader I know is trying to build such a team.
Granted, some are better at this than others. And, frankly, there are lots of senior leaders who aren’t worthy of much of the items on this list. They are difficult to follow, because they are difficult to trust. They may be incompetent, lack drive and be very controlling. Those are subjects of other posts – subjects I write about frequently. I realize if you’re in one of these situations there may be a natural push-back to a post like this. This post assumes at some point you believed in the senior leadership.
(And, if not, this too is a subject of another post, but maybe this post serves as another reminder to you it’s time for a change.)
Senior leaders, anything else you would add?